How to make women invisible, by Ikea

“Ikea is being criticized for deleting images of women from the Saudi version of its furniture catalogue, a move the company says it regrets. Comparing the Swedish and Saudi versions of the Ikea catalogue, Sweden’s free newspaper Metro on Monday showed that women had been airbrushed out of otherwise identical pictures showcasing the company’s home furnishings.

The report raised questions in Sweden about Ikea’s commitment to gender equality. The country’s trade minister Ewa Bjorling didn’t criticize Ikea directly but told Metro that you can’t delete women from society.

Ikea released a statement expressing regret, saying “We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the IKEA Group values.””

Source here.

2 thoughts on “How to make women invisible, by Ikea

  1. Is it fair to guess that the reason for taking women out of the photos (from the viewpoint of Saudia Arabia, not IKEA) is similar to the reasoning behind the Orthodox Jewish paper taking Clinton & Tomason out of the situation room picture? (

    “The readership of the Tzeitung believe that women should be appreciated for who they are and what they do, not for what they look like, and the Jewish laws of modesty are an expression of respect for women, not the opposite,”

    I remember a lot of people mocking the newspaper as being backward, overtly sexist, and blatantly disrespectful. (And maybe it really was and the above statement was insincere, but I didn’t see anyone give an argument for that.)

    If something similar is going on here, then this looks like an opportunity to talk about how attempts to combat one kind of problematic thing (e.g. the sexual objectification of women) can end up being it’s own kind of problematic thing (e.g. the erasure and marginalization of women from public life.)

    I know some people are skeptical that Judaism and Islam (or any major religion) really care about women not being objectified, but there are many people who are Jewish or Muslim who do sincerely care about being respectful towards women. The problem is that they (and most everyone else) are working with a problematic paradigm about what counts as respect. This is in the same general arena as men (regardless of religion) who–out of ‘respect’ for their women colleagues–don’t invite them to events where there is drinking/smoking/cussing.

    …or Christians who discourage women from participating in activities that are male-dominated:

    “Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls…Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty”.

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